Friday, April 24, 2015

The Gibson Citation and Gibson Kalamazoo Award Guitar

In 1969 Gibson introduced their top of the line model and called it The Citation. It was also their most expensive new model and remains so to this day.

The Citation was designed by then Gibson president Stanley Rendell as a jazz style archtop guitar. In 1969 it sold for $2500, which was more than twice as much as the next most expensive model, The Super 400CESN, which was selling for $1275. The least expensive model was the single pickup Melody Maker ($179.50).

1981 Gibson Citation
The Citation was made to order. Orders were taken in 1969, but the buyer might not get the guitar for up to 2 years. There were only 8 Citations made and shipped between the years 1969 to 1971.

All models were registered and could have the owners name engraved on the truss rod cover, if they desired. The Citation had a 17” full-depth body with figured maple back and sides. The top was either carved maple or spruce.

The neck was made of figured maple or mahogany. The bound ebony fretboard was decorated with fancy abalone inlays. The 5 piece neck had the little peak at its end.

The headstock was also bound and a fleur d’lis design was inlaid on the front and back of the headstock. The design could be in pearloid, gold pearloid or abalone. “The Gibson” logo was done in script that matched the choice of the owner.

On some models the logo was on the front and back of the headstock. "Gibson" was inlaid on the head stock.  An ovular metal plaque on the back had the registration number engrave on it.

All hardware was gold plated. Tuning keys were fancy Klusons. The gold-plated tune-o-matic bridge saddle stood astride a rosewood or ebony archtop bridge or you could order with a wooden saddle.

1997 Gibson Citation
The strings attached to a fancy gold-plated trapeze tailpiece. The Citation was equipped with a floating BJB pickup, gold plated of course. And a single gold-plated volume control was mounted on the instruments pickguard. The bound wooden pickguard was made to match the instruments body colour.

The Citation came in Natural or Sunburst finishes. Some were brown-yellow burst and others cherry burst. Some of the design was up to the owner and how much he or she wanted to spend.

1996 Gibson Citation
The original run ended in 1971, however there was still a demand for this guitar. So it was reissued in 1979 through 1983 and reissued again in 1993. As of 1994 Citation guitar is a part of Gibson’s historic collection and is available only on special order through their custom shop. It is the best hand-carved and handmade guitar that Gibson has ever offered.

2016 Gibson Citation
The current price for a new Gibson Citation starts at $22,299 and builds depending upon what features you want to add. There is currently a cherry finished 1981 model on eBay listed at $29,900. Another 1996 natural finished model on eBay is listed at $11,995. Musician Friend and Guitar Center both list them at $25,699 USD.

In 1978, Gibson also offered a similar guitar. It was not quite as fancy, but it was a lovely instrument. It was designed by Gibson craftsman Wilbur Fuller and was totally hand-carved and “tuned-by-ear”. After building the first model, the company was so impressed they designated it the Kalamazoo Award guitar.

1981 Gibson Kalamazoo Award
It too had a full-depth 17” archtop with a rounded cutaway, solid carved maple top, solid maple sides and carved maple back. It was topped with an ebony bridge with pearl inlays. The pickguard was made of matching wood and bound with abalone inlay. The f-holes were bound. The 5 piece maple neck was also bound, and topped with an ebony fretboard.

The ebony headstock was bound on the top and a beautiful eagle and branch abalone inlay topped the guitar directly under the word Gibson, which was spelled out in abalone. The back of the ebony headstock featured a diamond shaped inlay done in beautiful abalone.

1978 Kalamazoo Award
Fuller was a true luthier that studied with old craftsmen. This was his dream guitar. He worked for the company from 1954 until the last day of 1980 when he retired. He was able to tune the top to “C” and the back to “D”. He actually tuned the tops and backs again after the braces were glued in place.

Fuller did this with a small rubber mallet. He would carve wood off the top, back and bracing until he heard the right tone. He had to take the guitar apart and put it back together until he was satisfied.

1980 Kalamazoo Award
Mike Korpac, from Gibson production procured parts for this instrument. He designed the head veneer, tailpiece (which has the matching eagle design in abalone), and the finger rest (pickguard; which has the eagle and branch design in abalone on its face). Production of the Kalamazoo Award lasted until 1984. 85 instruments were made and sold.

If you find one expect to pay upward of $18,000. They are rare, handcrafted and works of art.


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